Dear Cheapo: A Math Lesson


So, I raised my prices for writing to $0.02/word (a big deal for me) back in October 2017 after many years at a lower price point. I feel I timed things right, and it has worked out very nicely so far. However, I still occasionally get a message asking about discounts.

When this question comes with a bulk order from a long-term customer, that’s one thing. It might be a free 24-hour turnaround add-on thrown into their urgent offer. But when it’s a person with whom I’ve never worked with expecting things at half price (from now until eternity, assuming they really have the “bundles of work” they claim), that’s entirely different.

Some people take a polite no as an answer, but others want to sit there and haggle/argue with my about what they deserve to pay.

Cheapo: “You charge $0.02/word! If I want a 15,000-word book, that would be upwards of $3,000!”

Me: “No, it would actually be exactly $300.”

Cheapo: “That’s still too much. Can I get a discount?”

Me: “I’m not able to offer a discount, but you can begin with a smaller order that fits within your budget.”

Cheapo: “What do you mean you’re not “able”? Even if you type just 50 words a minute, you’re still making $60 an hour!”

Me: “I’d suggest finding another seller.”


I actually type 85 words/minute, but I’m still not making $60 an hour or anywhere near it.

First, out of that $0.02/word, I only get 80% = $0.016/word.

But, wait, there’s more…

Out of that $0.016/word, I have to pay 15.3% self-employment tax. Plus 22% Federal tax. Plus my (outrageous) 7% state income tax.

That leaves me at $0.008912/word.

So, you might be paying $300 for a 15,000-word eBook, but I am only pocketing about $133.68.

How much is that an hour? Well, assuming I could sit there and type at 85 words/minute steadily, all day long, I’d get about $45/hour. But, I’m human, so I can’t.

You have to factor in the initial research, the structuring, the writing, the editing, the revisions…I’ve found that, on average, it takes me around 10 hours to write a 15,000-word book when it’s all said and done. That’s about $13.36/hour on a good day.

And that’s when I’m reminded that I could be making the same an hour at the local burger joint, without having to stay up until midnight.

So, cheapo, maybe you should go to the drive-thru next time you want “affordable” writing services.

Fact: The real industry standard is a minimum of $0.10/word, but I don’t think any seller here lists at that price point. If they do, they probably aren’t selling that well since a thousand other sellers are willing to accept less at any given time.


You entertain them for too long. :slight_smile: I just tell them: “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you a discount. It would be unprofessional and unfair to all of my buyers who have paid the full price.”

Or, if needed, instead of “all of my buyers who have paid the full price”, it’s “all of my repeat buyers who have paid the full price every time”.


As you already know, 2 cents a word is still so cheap. You should take the Catwriter approach and kick buyers like this to the curb pronto. It’ll be better for your mental health! :slight_smile:


Wow, el cheapo are you kidding me?! $300 is a steal of a deal for a 15K word eBook. Sydney, I think I might take you up on that offer. :smile:

It’s also pathetic when these people try to put up a fight or try to convince Sellers to lowball. :confused:


I can’t stand it when people try to haggle. You make a great point about how so many of us freelance writers could make the same amount (with far less headaches) working retail.

I don’t haggle even a little. I say, “If you can not afford my rates, then you will need to find another writer.”

Seriously, I’m up to my eyeballs in student loan debt. My rates are paying for my degree; the degree that ensures my writing is high quality.

I honestly get extra sour about this because working as a Freelance ghostwriter is pretty much the only thing you can do with a Creative Writing degree. And then on top of that, I get buyers wanting to pay me minimum wage. There are definitely days where I feel like, what did I even bother for?


I usually give them my canned response once they ask. Unfortunately, blocking their messages usually doesn’t work because of the bug.

I thought I’d share the math here so maybe some buyers like this will get a clue. If they take a second to think beyond the listed price and actually consider the fees, taxes, and workload sellers face, maybe some of them will change their ways.

I know there are sellers working for less than I do, which makes me wish there was a preset (and fair) minimum fee. It’s hard to compete at $0.10/word when all the other writers (myself included) charge less than $0.03. We’re working against ourselves, but at the same time, it’s hard for anyone to raise the bar. There will always be a new seller trying to break through who’s willing to do 1,000 words for $5, for a while anyway (I was that seller too, once).


Haggling is the first red flag that generally causes me to say “Sorry can’t help you, but there are many here who might. Good Luck.”


Plus, it rarely ever ends, does it? You give somebody a 10% discount right off the bat, but then a few months later they’re back with a “big job” and want a further discount.

Soon, you’re looking at burger flippers with envy because they earn way more than you.


Right, plus if you are soft as to rate, they will haggle to get revisions, and haggle to get it before the delivery deadline. Avoid em like sushi on a Monday.


If someone tries to haggle with me, I just tell them that my prices are already discounted.

Buyers asking for discounts are usually the same ones who come back with several revision requests.

If I were you, I’d actually increase your prices. You have over 4,000 reviews and you are offering article writing at a comparable price to most newbies. Have you ever tried shopping around to see what your competitors are offering? In most cases, it’s like taking a stroll down Sesame Street.


They won’t read it, or will say/think that

it’s not their problem.


It is extremely surprising how many people make that mistake which is why I charge per thousand words instead. People seem to struggle with decimal points for some reason.

Whenever someone says something as downright stupid as that, they clearly have no idea of what writing consists of and you need to just cut it short at that point. You could consider a polite but firm “Yes, but I like to think about what I write, rather than just spout nonsense at high speed. As that is what you are looking for, perhaps you should find someone else.”


I feel your pain. Let me tell you, I don’t like hagglers either, and if someone haggles that’s a good indication they will be difficult in the future as well. Re-writes, changing their minds after you wrote the book, so just don’t take work from them. It’s always the 5 dollar clients who cause the most pain.
However: the fack you have costs beside the 20% fiverr cut, is entirely your problem. Other sellers have different tax positions - (or they simply do not pay tax), so they may be able to undercut you that way. Or living costs are way lower in their country. And yes, others undercut you because they don’t have anything besides price. Bad quality, English not being their first language, typos all around. Whoever wants quality work, knows they can’t pay with peanuts, else they get monkeys.

So jut get rid of these guys, raise your prices and go for quality!


I had one 3 days ago, was a 30$ offer, that was still cheap as hell but he found it expensive, so the negociations started.

He: ,Can you do it for 20$?"
Me: ,No"

End of the story. :wink:


Lol, Miss Cat, I just made this one of my quick responses! :smile_cat:


I like that, may steal it! LOL


I’m glad you liked it, though this is a common phrase, unfortunately I can’t claim any royalties on it:)


I charge 3cents per word and don’t normally run into too many issues, but I typically try to stay away from ebooks/longer projects like that (although I do have gigs up for them as I’m interested FOR THE RIGHT CLIENTS) but on the whole anyone who has enquired after my writing services wants 20-30k for $50 and it’s like lol um no.